There’s something I missed during my recent break from the blog that I definitely need to catch up on: Jersey’s July issue covering Popular Culture of the 1990s. Grab your giant Café Perk coffee mug and slip into your finest safety-pin dress, and let’s get jiggy wit’ it.
I latched onto this series back in 2018 when the groovy 1960s set came out. Then there was the funky 1970s issue, and then the 1980s set that was so RAD! that one of the stamps literally said “RAD!” (Before all that, there was a 1950s set, which I missed, um, daddy-o.)
And so we now come to the 1990s. As with previous sets, we have six stamps covering various elements of the decade, and a miniature sheet depicting a street scene from the era. The stakes are higher this time, because at the end of my 1980s post, I tried to predict what we’d see in the 1990s. How did I go? Let’s find out…
My guess: Britpop
Being a stamp collector, I suppose I was always going to have been too cool to get this one right. Boybands weren’t a 1990s invention, but a steady stream of teen-mag-friendly lineups polluted 90s charts with their confected schmaltz. I just got to wondering, what’s the opposite of ‘timeless’? Is it ‘timeful’? Because that’s what this music was. This stamp, with its grey tones and cookie-cutter casting, captures the blandness and vapidity of the entire genre. It’s not a specific boy band, and yet it is ALL of them. But I can’t help feeling that girl bands have copped the raw end of the stick here. Surely they contributed just as much to the era, and, from what I can barely remember from nightclubs I wish I hadn’t been dragged to, the girl bands left a better musical legacy. Fight me.
My guess: Video games
Love the dynamic design. Bit confused by the subject matter though. Sure, yo-yos had a brief comeback in the 1990s, but they’d been a part of the 1980s and the 1970s. Even the ‘original’ 1960s fad was a revival of a craze that could be traced back to the 1920s. Wasn’t there something a little more ’90s that the good people of Jersey wasted the decade on? Where’s Wally? Beanie Babies? Breaking their ankles trying to Riverdance?
My guess: Grunge (which could also have been filed under ‘music’ or ‘language’)
I made a critical error with my guess: the stamps usually highlight one kind of garment, not an overall look. Crop tops are probably a good call. I’m no expert in women’s clothing, but I reckon I could have suggested one extra touch that would have been a lovely little 1990s Easter egg: a navel piercing. Look, I gave her one:
See? Random 90s chick just became Alicia Silverstone in that Aerosmith filmclip!
Category: Food and drink
My guess: Espresso-style coffee took off in the UK in the 1990s, so I went with ‘cappucino’.
Confectionery? That’s not new, right? Did it only arrive in Jersey in the 1990s? OK, I get it, every decade enjoys its own confectionery innovations and I guess these colourful toothrotters must have made their mark on the decade. I don’t specifically remember any of them, but that might be because the ’90s was the decade in which I was finally old enough to indulge in more grown-up kinds of sugar hits, the ones that leave you with a headache the next day. So I checked with Mrs Punk, who is younger than me. She enthusiastically listed every item on the stamp, complete with brand name and a handy instructional guide. I stand corrected, and I feel old. Still, I could drink beer by 1999, and she couldn’t, so I hope she enjoyed her sherbet tubes or what-ever.
My guess: Home internet
YES! Guessed one right. This victory is accompanied in my head by the triumphant double-boing sound that tells me my dial-up modem connection is proceeding successfully. Now I just have to hope that the website finishes loading before someone in the house needs to make a phone call and I have to disconnect the internet. Absolute chef’s-kiss design on this one.
My guess: ‘www’, even though it doubled-up on the internet. I figured I’d get one right. And I have already. So I don’t care.
Another favourite of mine from this issue. The origins of the graffiti-style typography can be traced further back than this era, but its use, and the word ‘fresh’ itself, herald the international mainstreaming of African-American urban culture, a defining cultural moment in the 1990s. I can’t be the only person who is reminded of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the sitcom that launched Will Smith into the ’90s stratosphere.
OK, so I didn’t get many right, but we had fun along the way, didn’t we? As with last year, these six stamps appear in a souvenir sheet, illustrated at its base with a year-by-year timeline. I’ve pulled it out a little here for slightly-greater-but-still-not-ideal clarity.
Oh, and what do we have here? 1991: Nirvana release their album ‘Nevermind’. Chalk up one point for Grunge. 1996: Spice Girls release the single ‘Wannabe’. Well, there’s our girl band. And what’s that at 1992? Official end of the Cold War. Well, thank goodness that’s all behind us, right?
Now, I know what you’re asking: where’s the Street Life miniature sheet? No Popular Culture issue from Jersey is complete without a look at these supersized depictions of a supposed typical street scene from the era. The 1990s miniature sheet upholds the eye-candy value of past series, with a nice twist: it’s rendered in 8-bit style artwork!
There are some delights in the details: the chunkiness of the mobile phone in the advertisement, the advent of the cycling business commuter, the fact that a video store even exists. Beyond that, the street action is a little generic; perhaps that’s due to the limitations of this artistic style. But I am forgiving, because the overall image is wonderful. I don’t know how often you good people of Jersey spend £3 on your mail, but if you’re not putting this miniature sheet on those parcels, then throw yourselves into the Channel.
If that’s the end of Jersey’s Popular Culture series, then I’ve enjoyed the ride. What a great idea for a series of stamps, each set engagingly designed and bursting with nostalgia. Jersey’s philatelic output is absolute collector-bait, far in excess of postal needs, but by geez they do a good job of it. Since this issue came out last year, we’ve had commercial planes, the brewing industry, ghost stories and tractors (and more). That makes four entries in my hypothetical bucket list called Things They Should Put On Stamps (And Yes I Know They Put Planes On Stamps All The Time But They Should Put Even More On). If I decided to burn my money on a new-issues subscription to any postal administration, Jersey would be high on the list.
Thanks for coming with me on this trip down memory lane. It’s been a lovely way to have our lives flash before our eyes just before old mate Vladimir hits the red button and returns us all to the stone age. How very retro.
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